If you have difficulty living the Christian life, it’s because your priorities are wrong. If your priorities are right, your life will be right.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) If your first priority is God, the rest of your life will fall into place. There is incredible power in having the proper priorities. As a matter of fact, you could sum up the problem of most people’s lives with this one sentence: They fail to put first things first.
Have you substituted busyness for seeking God, and in doing so allowed something other than God to be your first priority?
How can a Christian make God his or her number one priority? How do I go about seeking the kingdom of God first? I believe Matthew chapter five offers five powerful perspectives on how we can make the Lord our first priority.
Fellowship Before Worship
In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus said, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”
If you know you are willingly wrong with your brother, you had better make things right before coming to the Lord. No one can truly worship who does not first get right with his brother.
Notice that Jesus warns against anyone having something against you, not you having something against a brother. To attempt to worship if I know I’ve wronged another person is sheer vanity. You cannot be right with God if you are wrong with your brother.
Is there something you need to make right? Do you have debts that you haven’t paid, duty that you’ve neglected, harsh words for which you need to repent, or gossip that needs to be put right? Then it will keep you from worshipping God.
The Spiritual before the Material
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness...” The key to seeking God’s kingdom is to focus on His righteousness. Jesus said if you do that, all these other things will be added unto you. Focus on the spiritual, not the material.
That’s hard to do in our culture. Most people put things first and God second. But the key to spiritual and material prosperity is to put the spiritual ahead of the material. You won’t make it to heaven worshipping things. Anything you love more than God, anything you serve ore than God, is an idol to you.
Purity before Ministry
In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus says,
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Imagine a man who has a log as big as a railroad tie in his eye, and he notices a friend with a speck in his eye. The first man tries to do a little surgery, removing the speck from his friend’s eye. It’s a silly picture, this man with a log in his eye trying to help someone else. The Lord is warning us to put purity ahead of ministry. To continue doing ministry in a situation like that makes you a hypocrite-someone wearing the mask of maturity.
Those first words, “judge not,” have become some of the most misapplied words of Scripture. Christ is not instructing us to be undiscerning, since in the very next paragraph He warns us not to cast pearls before swine. You’ve got to be able to discern the difference between sheep and swine. Christ is warning us not to judge others hypocritically. Don’t worry too much about the speck in your brother’s eye until you first grab hold of the log in your own so that you can see a bit more clearly. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” The Bible clearly says that the spiritually mature should assist those experiencing difficulty.
Binding before Loosing
Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Is not this the son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matthew 12:22-28).
This was such a powerful display that some in attendance wondered aloud if Jesus was, in fact, the promised Messiah. But the Pharisees envied Jesus and had no compassion for people, so when they saw the miracle they chalked it up to the work of Beelzebub.
Christian, Jesus is stronger than Satan, and Jesus lives in us. We can bind Satan and loose souls. Satan is the god of this world, and he has blinded the minds of many, but by the power of God you can give them spiritual sight.
The Inside before the Outside
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matthew 23:25-26).
If you want to seek first the kingdom of God, you’ve got to make sure you get clean on the inside, not just the outside.
You see, what men need is a new birth, not just a new bath. They need to be radically changed from the inside, not simply polished up a bit on the exterior. Government tries to change men by improving their environment, but that will never work. Adam and Eve fell into sin while living in the perfect environment!
1. Read Matthew 5:23-24. In your own words, what do those verses mean?
How would you put them into practice?
Why is it important to God that we put fellowship ahead of worship?
Are there any relationships in your life that need to be made right before you can worship?
2. What command are we given in Matthew 6:33?
What promise is made to us?
As you examine your life, is there any material thing that stands in the way of your spiritual walk with God?
3. In Matthew 7:1-6, who does Christ depict as having a problem?
When have you encountered someone with a log in his eye attempting to help someone else with a speck in his eye?
How can impurity ruin ministry?
What would you say to someone in ministry who claimed, “I know my life is filI of sin, but my ministry is too important to neglect”?
4. Does Matthew 7:1-6 teach us never to judge others?
In your own words, what was Christ saying in the first few verses of Matthew 7?
What is wrong with someone saying, “You can’t tell me how to live. You’re judging me! If I want to be a homosexual that’s my own choice?”
5. In Matthew 12:22-29, why was Jesus criticized? What was the motivation behind the criticism?
How do we bind Satan?
Why do we bind Satan?
Is there someone in your life who needs Satan bound so that he or she can be loosed? Who?
6. Read Matthew 23:25-26. What mistake had the Pharisees made?
Why do you suppose the Lord hates hypocrisy so much?
Why can’t the government change people?
A TIME OF PRAYER
Take a few moments to write a prayer to God. Start by writing words of adoration, praising Him for who He is and what He has done. Then add words of confession, admitting your sin and asking His forgiveness. Now add words of thanksgiving, acknowledging His blessings. End by asking the Lord for the things you would like Him to do.
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